10 Mar The COLOR of ANTLER!!!
Antlers come in a variety of colors! Some headgear is bone colored while others are dark and brown. Antlers that are aged also take on different colors as well. So, what causes antlers color?
Keep in mind that antler is the fastest growing bone known to mankind. This highly vascular bone is covered with a scab like material called “Velvet”. The growth of the antler is stimulated and controlled by diet and photoperiod or the length of day. Antlers begin growing as soon as the previous year’s headgear has been shed. Growth is slow at first, but accelerates with the longer days, and abundant food of Summer. Antlers can grow 1/2”-1 1/2 inches each day, during prime light and food conditions!
As the days begin to shorten, the blood flow to the antlers is reduced, and ultimately stops around the end of Summer. This when the Velvet begins to fall off. Bucks often eat the velvet as it drops or hangs off. This, now dead membrane, is full of dried blood.
When we think about how antlers get their color, there are two possibilities. Either the antlers retain blood stain from velvet, and the antler growing process, or the antlers have become stained due to environmental reasons such as tree bark, soil, and vegetation.
It is from the death of the Velvet, and the deteriorating blood vessels, that blood stains and darkens the antlers. The drying of the Velvet takes several days. Certainly, some color can be attributed to tree sap and vegetation, but these colors easily fade and disappear over time. The velvet free, exposed antler now begins to fade in the sun and takes on the traditional bone white color. With time, stains will wear off and fade.
Larger, and thicker Racks, or antlers, are covered with thicker matts of velvet. The dense, and increased surface areas, have more access to blood. When the velvet dies, it takes longer for the blood- soaked velvet to fall off. This allows the blood to stain the antler for a longer time and leaves it darker. Deer that tend to live in forested or more shaded areas, also tend to avoid the sun. Older bucks are almost nocturnal, and avoid daytime movement. The sun does not get much opportunity to bleach their racks.
Antlers are not “hard” during their growth. This hardening, or petrification, does not take place until a few weeks before the Velvet begins to shed. Prior to this, the antler is flexible and easily damaged. This is why some antlers have a variety of odd shapes and appendages.
While the antler is growing, and softer, a type of wasp can bury, lay its eggs into the antler! The egg will hatch, mature, and feed on the soft antler until it matures. A few weeks before the velvet dies, the wasp flies away and leaves a hole, or burr shape in the antler.
Mineral salts form a compact bone collar near the “pedicle”, or antler base. As the salts build up, similar to hardening of the arteries, blood flow is reduced and cut off. Scientists are not completely sure about how this works. Surely, the testosterone levels of the bucks also have some impact. What is for sure is that Velvet dies without blood. Nature finds a way!
The best time to place antler growth supplements afield is late April – July. Regular distribution will give the best growth results during the longer days and accelerated growth cycles. The rest of the year is a waste of antler supplement resources.
Rubs are a visual and a sensory territorial marker. The antler base, eye, and other sites on a buck’s head, contain scent glands. The testosterone will initiate the need to begin the rut process. There is a frontal gland on the forehead of deer that also produces a scent used in marking territory.
It was thought that bucks would “Rub” their antlers onto trees and saplings to scratch their itchy headgear. Antler, like bone, has no nerves. Without nerves, the deer can feel or sense nothing. Rubs tend to be markers for the buck’s territory during the coming Rut, or mating season.
Bucks are gaining familiarity and control when “Rubbing” their antlers. The purpose of these Racks is to fight, and visually display their prowess as a breeder. They need to practice, and feel the pressure that measures their size and shape. Competition between bucks is about how to use these antlers in a fight, or to scare off a younger, and smaller challenger. The size, and height of a rub, also sends a message to lesser bucks.
Antlers can be colored to become darker or more stained. This can only occur when they are hanging on your wall. Try using wet tea bags, coffee grounds, or different wood stains to achieve the color you desire. There are also different oils that can stain or at least brighten your trophies. At the very least, you need to dust, polish and maintain your racks and wall hangers.
Trophy mounts are a memorial to an amazing creature. They also symbolize a moment in your life when for just one moment, you focused, and harvested such a magnificent creature. Antlers remind us about why we hunt, what we eat, and why it is so important to manage and protect this incredible resource.
Show us your Rack!
For more Montana Grant, visit his website at www.montanagrantfishing.com.